A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will

The Promise

Chapter 1
The Patriarchs

By Edgar Jones


The Old Testament documents the Father's promise to human beings, first to and through Abraham and the Patriarchs, then to Israel through the prophets and kings of Israel and finally to all humans through Jesus of Nazareth.  The sequence is this: first to chosen individuals, then to a nation, then to all the families of the earth. It is this Promise, more than anything else, that binds the Old Testament and the Gospels into a unified set of documents. Then, when we view the Old Testament in the Light of the wholly inspired Words of Jesus (the Logos), we see it not as inerrrant but as the progressive revelation of the Father's will given to developing humans as they were able to receive it. This delivers us from the perverse doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy that is the bane of Christendom. God made a promise to humans in the Old Testament; He fulfilled it, first in the Gospels, and now continues its fulfillment to individuals of all nations -- to everyone who responds to his call.  Here is the first of a series that will trace The Promise through the Old Testament to its continuing fulfillment.  Your sincere comments and questions are welcome.

The Function of the Old Testament

Everything I write here arises from a careful and long consideration of the utterances of Jesus.  He it is who has opened my eyes to the character and function of the Old Testament according to the purposes of the Father. His definitive statement is this:

[37] And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen;
[38] and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent.
[39] You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me;
[40] yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The scriptures in this context consists of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.  Jesus sometimes spoke more specifically, of the scriptures of the prophets indicating the documents written by the prophets.  In First Century Judah scriptures was a common phrase to designate what we now term the Old Testament, and he carefully defined its function:

. . . it is they that bear witness to me.

This utterance, addressed to his enemies, severely limits the scriptures by revealing that they do not contain within themselves the words of eternal life, which can be found only in and through Jesus and his Sayings. Today, the churchmen play the same tragic role while they earnestly search the scriptures in quest of eternal life yet refuse to listen to Jesus that they may have life.  Thus they make themselves the enemies of Jesus and play the role of Pharisees.  We safely conclude that the Old Testament has the positive role of bearing witness to Jesus, but is lacking in the Words of Life.  It gives its testimony in revealing and preserving the Promise, as we will see in the following pages.  Like John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, it is not the Light, but it bears witness to the Light.

[6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
[7] He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.
[8] He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.

Jesus also placed a temporal limitation on the duration of the Law and the Prophets:

[16] The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently.

John was the last to proclaim the Promise to the nation, Israel.  The Father was through repeating the Promise from generation to generation, because Jesus was and is its fulfillment.  We turn now to the Old Testament to trace the Promise to that fulfillment.

The Covenant

The Hebrew word is bĕrît.  The word has a complex root and describes binding agreements between parties and or promises made.  It resembles the term contract, such that one speaks of either a marriage covenant (Malachi 2:14) or a contract of marriage.  It is important here because the Old Testament applies it to the covenant that the Father made with various parties, wherein He made The Promise known. 

Genesis first applies the word to God's covenant with Noah (Gen. 6:18), and we find it repeated to Noah as the covenant of the rainbow in Gen. 9:9,11,12,13,15 and 16 and many Gentiles have attempted to integrate this with later covenants so as to position themselves within the later promises made to the Jews.  However, Jesus spoke not a word of the Noahide Covenant so that we know it plays no part in his revelation of Truth.  We will therefore write no more of it here.  Wherever "covenant" appears below, it is from this same Hebrew word and is not the Noahide Covenant.


The word (
ĕrît ) next occurs in defining the promises of the Lord to His servant, Abraham, in Gen. 15:18.  We read there of his promise of land to Abraham and his descendants after him, all the land from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates.  This verse is the next instance of this particular word, but the promises to Abraham first began to be documented at Genesis 12:1.  That is where we will begin in the documentation of the Promise, but first a word about Abraham.

This Abraham was a native of Ur, a city then located in what is now Iraq. We have no certain data as to the date of Abraham's migration from Ur, but it may have been as early as 1800 BC.  He moved with his father, Terah, from Ur to Haran, located in what is now northern Syria.  He may have been a trader, traveling on the trade routes of the Fertile Crescent, though biblical evidence (Gen. 21:28) indicates that he belonged to the pastoral scene.  The Bible presents him is the Patriarch of all Israelites because, as their progenitor, he was the first chosen to know and serve God, and through whom the Promise was communicated to successive patriarchs -- Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel) who became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Due to the fact that his story is preserved in Genesis, he is also
the Patriarch of Christianity and Islam.  He is not the patriarch of the Little Flock1 who, being begotten from above, know no patriarch (no father) other than the Father who is in heaven.  However, the Little Flock can also be counted among those of Abrahamic faith because the Promise first given to Abraham (Abram) finds its fruition in them.

Abraham was yet in Haran, Terah his father having died, when the Lord appeared to him and said:

[1] Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.
[2] And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
[3] I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.

In this and all subsequent quotations, I highlight the words of the Promise in purple for ease of recognition.  The content of this first statement of the Promise is clear.  There is only one comment to be made, which is that from the very first, the Promise was to a "great nation" that would come from Abraham and also to all the families of the earth.  Sometimes Gentiles think that the promises of God were only for the offspring of Abraham; they were that, but they were also directed, through  Abraham, to every family of man.  Remember this because it will come before us again and again.  It was through this man that the Jews became a chosen people, but it was not for them alone.

Abraham, with Lot his nephew, his family and "the persons they had gotten in Haran" migrated further southward to the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:4-7).  There, the Lord appeared to him a second time and promised to give "this land," to him and his descendants forever.  There Abraham built an altar.  A famine then drove him to take all his possessions and migrate to Egypt where, after some doings, he went up from Egypt together with Lot, his nephew, returning to Canaan.  But they found the land would not support them both with their "flocks and herds and tents" and they parted ways, Lot migrating down to the Jordan valley while Abraham remained in the high country. Then the Lord appeared to him again and continued the Promise:

[14] The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward;
[15] for all the land which you see I will give to you and to your descendants for ever.
[16] I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your descendants also can be counted.
[17] Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.

From that day, Canaan became the Land of Promise for Abraham and his descendants.  It is, of course, for this reason that the Israeli's are attempting in our time to repossess it.  Numerous adventures followed in the continuing saga of Abraham, including a war with nearby kings and the encounter with the mysterious Melchizedek, "king of Salem" and "priest of God Most High." To him Abraham gave "a tenth of everything" (Gen. 14:20). 

Many years passed after the Lord first announced the Promise of the Land of Canaan to him and his descendants, yet Abraham (Abram) had no descendants and was becoming very concerned.  He complained to the Lord about this, and was assured by this further Promise:

[5] "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
[6] And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Verse 6, you may recall, is the verse on which Paul founded his doctrine of imputed righteousness, by grace through faith alone (Romans 4, Galatians 3).  In the succeeding chapters of Genesis we are informed of several messages from the Lord, including the prophecy of the Egyptian captivity and restoration to Canaan. We also learn of the birth of Ishmael to Hagar, the maid of Sarai, Abraham's wife and of the name change from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of a multitude). Abraham was ninety-nine years old at that time.  The Lord repeated the Promise of the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, and was given the Covenant of Circumcision (17:9-14).

This man of faith
had powerful doubts at this point, being ninety-nine years old and yet without a child by his ninety year old wife, Sarah, so he pled with the Lord to fulfill the promise through Ishmael.  The Lord then sets him straight again:

[19] God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

[20] As for Ish'mael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.
[21] But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year."

So it came to pass that Sarah gave birth Isaac the next year, when Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah ninety-one.  There followed the casting out of Hagar and Ishmael, several other adventures and several years of the testing of the faith of Abraham.  He passed the test with flying colors and the angel of the Lord appeared to him with another repetition of the Promise:

[16] By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son,
[17] I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies,
[18] and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.

We see it again -- just as we were wondering if the Lord had forgotten it -- the Promise of the blessing for all the nations of the earth.  We also learn something of great importance: the blessing is being maintained not because of Abraham's faith, but because of his obedience -- because you have obeyed my voice.  Paul overlooked or ignored this, which did not at all fit into the confines of his gospel.  Had he been an honest broker of the Word, he would have acknowledged that Abraham's righteousness resulted from both faith and works of obedience, precisely as explained in the Epistle of James (James 2:18-26).

The years passed.  Sarah died at the age of a hundred and twenty-seven and was buried.  Isaac grew up and took to wife Rebecca, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother (Gen. 24:15).  Abraham took yet another wife for himself, Keturah, who bore him six more children before his death at the age of a hundred and seventy-five years.  He was finally buried with Sarah.

The extreme patriarchal lifetimes (Abraham, 175 years) are indicative of the basic character of Genesis, and indeed of all the OT scriptures.  We need not press for factual inerrancy; the important thing is the true thing, and that is the record of the Lord God's progressive relationship with human beings as traced through the Promise.  This includes the later focus on the Promised One who was to be the culmination of the Promise.


Rebecca bore Isaac twin sons, Jacob and Esau.  Esau was the elder, having come forth from the womb first, and was therefore the legal heir of Isaac's estate, including all his possessions and the Promise.  Esau grew up to be a rough man and a hunter of game. He was a little dumb and not up to dealing with his twin, who was as sharp as any tack out of the box.  Moreover, Isaac loved Esau, whereas Rebecca loved Jacob. 

Rebecca had a private word from the Lord that gave her much encouragement, for she desired that Jacob should be the heir rather than Esau. 

[23] And the LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples, born of you, shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger."

Esau is to serve Jacob! The problem, for Rebecca, was how to bring this about, for she knew that Isaac favored Esau and would never knowingly take his inheritance and give it to his younger brother.  The boys grew up and Jacob saw opportunity one day when, finding Esau famished on returning from a hunt, convinced him to sell his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup!

There came another famine in the land and Isaac was considering migrating again to Egypt, as had Abraham his father during an earlier famine, when the Lord appeared to him and said:

[2] "Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you.
[3] Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will fulfill the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.
[4] I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give to your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves:
[5] because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

Precisely as the Lord had told Abraham (Gen. 17:19), the Promise now belongs to Isaac.  We should call attention to the continuation of these things:

1. Here it is again: all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves.
2. The Promise remains 
because Abraham obeyed my voice.

Take note once more, if you will, that it was because of Abraham's obedience, and not because of his faith (not mentioned here) that the Promise is secure and handed off to Isaac.

Isaac had a few adventures in the following years, including one in which he identified Rebecca as his sister
and handed her off to Abimilech, king of the Philistines, because he feared that he would be killed for her if he claimed her as his wife.  Like Abraham, in Egypt, handing off Sarah as his sister to Pharoah, Isaac did the same.  And like Abraham, the outcome was that the wife/sister was not violated and the husband/liar came out of the situation a wealthy man (Gen. 26:13).  At Beersheba, the Lord repeated the Promise again (for my servant Abraham's sake), and Isaac built an altar there and dug a well.

Isaac grew old and his eyes failed.  Having premonitions of death, he called his favorite son, Esau,
to him and said,

[3] Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me,
[4] and prepare for me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat; that I may bless you before I die

For Rebecca, who overheard, (and Jacob) there was no time to waste.  The two of them hatched a quick plan and it worked.  Dressing Jacob in Esau's clothes, covering his exposed, smooth hands and neck with kidskin to simulate the hairy hands and neck of Esau, and preparing the "savory food" such as Isaac liked, Rebecca sent Jacob to the blind Isaac posing as Esau. The aged Isaac, who could not see but could only smell the garments of Esau and feel the hairy hands and neck, believed him to be Esau.  For a confirmation, Isaac asked, "Are you really my son Esau?"  Jacob lied.  Isaac was convinced by the body odor (they bathed seldom in those days!) and gave him the blessing of the elder son:

[28] May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine.
[29] Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be every one who curses you,and blessed be every one who blesses you!

The plot was uncovered as soon as Esau returned from hunt with his own savory food.  But a blessing is a blessing!  Poor Esau, to have been so defrauded, and poor Isaac, to have been so deceived!  Esau raged because Jacob had now defrauded him twice, first by stealing his birthright, and now by finalizing the theft by stealing his blessing.  Esau pled with Isaac, "Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father."

Then his father answered:

[39] "Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high.
[40] By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you break loose you shall break his yoke from your neck."

Speak of a dysfunctional family!  But that aside, the focus of attention now shifts to Jacob.  We learn that Isaac lived years longer and died much later, at the age of a hundred and eighty years and that Jacob and Esau, then reconciled, buried him at Hebron (Gen. 35:27-29).

Jacob (Israel)

Rebecca, fearful that Jacob would marry one of the Canaanite women, implored Isaac and the latter sent Jacob off to the home of Laban, his mother's brother, in the land of Paddan-Aram (modern Iraq).  This was the region from which Abraham had come to Canaan and there was kin there.  Jacob blessed Isaac as he left:

[3] God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. [4] May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your descendants with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings which God gave to Abraham!"

This "blessing" is a reference to the Promise and, as we will see, this is the beginning of a practice according to which, instead of the Lord making the promise directly, it is recalled by a later person as the Promise to Abraham and the other Patriarchs.  It is still the Promise, and the writer of Genesis uses this as another device for keeping it before us.

But the Lord also spoke to Jacob, this time in a dream.  Soon after Jacob's departure, perhaps the first night on the journey, he fell asleep and dreamed of the ladder that reached from earth to heaven, with the angels of God "ascending and descending upon it."  In the dream, the Lord stood above it and spoke these words:

[13] "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants;
[14] and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves.
[15] Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.

It is the Promise, transferred now fully to the next generation.  It is a promise to Jacob and his descendants, to bring him back to that land that the descendants were to inherit.  And yet again, the Promise is not only of a blessing to Jacob and his descendants, but as before we have the universal element,

. . . and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves.

In the morning he set up a stone pillar, named the place Bethel, and promised God a tithe.  Then he went on toward Haran (in Paddan-Aram) and nearing the end of his journey, we are treated to the manner of his introduction to Rachel, Laban's daughter, who was keeping her father's sheep and had brought them to a well for water.  He was immediately smitten of Rachel, and followed her on to Laban's home, where he stayed with him for a month.

Finding him a good worker, Laban hoped to keep Jacob and offered to employ him.  Now, Rachel was the younger and more beautiful of two daughters.  Leah was the other, who was weak eyed and not much to look at. So Jacob cut a deal with Laban: give him Rachel to wife, and he would serve him seven years for the younger daughter!  They agreed and Jacob served the seven years during which he prospered and also prospered Laban.  Having waited seven long years for his wife, he asked for her and Laban agreed, and they had a feast.  It must have been quite a party, and Jacob must have been quite drunk, for he did not notice that Laban sent Leah to the marriage bed rather than Rachel until the morning! 

We can only imagine the racket that ensued as Jacob vigorously complained.  Laban explained that he could not give the younger before the elder; but no problem - Jacob need only agree to serve him seven more years to have Rachel also, after only a week of honeymooning with Leah.  Jacob accepted and, after one week, he had himself two wives.  Not only so, but Leah brought with her Zilpah, her maid, and Rachel brought Bilhah, her maid.  Seven more years to go, but, hey!  With all these women in the house, they can't be too bad, can they? 

Jacob could not have neglected Leah as we might think, for she immediately began to bear children. Reuben came first, then Simeon, then Levi, and then Judah.  Then she ceased bearing.  But for Rachel there were no children, not a single one during those years.  In desperation she sent her maid Bilhah to Jacob as a sort of surrogate.  Jacob went in to her and she in due time produced a son whom Rachel named Dan.  It is apparent that Jacob felt he had a good thing going, for that wasn't the end of it.  In short order, Bilhah produced another son, whom Rachel named Naphtali.  Jacob now has six sons as the two wives contend with one another for his affection, thinking that the one who produces more children will be loved the more.

It was a good deal for Jacob. Now Leah, seeing that she had ceased bearing, says to herself, "two can play this game."  She then sends her maid, Zilpah, in to Jacob, and
Zilpah bears a son whom Leah names Gad, and yet another whom Leah names Asher!     
Now there are eight!

During all this, however, it is apparent that Jacob continued,
to Leah's dismay, to favor Rachel and went in to her preferentially.  Then Leah bribed Rachel with her son's mandrakes ("love apples"), and Rachel allowed Leah to go again to Jacob in her place.  The result?  You guessed it -- another son, Issachar.  Then yet again, and we have Zebulun.  Leah has now borne six sons to Jacob, plus two by her maid Zilpah; Rachel by her maid Bilhah, two, so that he has now ten sons. Then, at last, Leah bore a daughter, Dinah.

Poor beautiful Rachel has herself borne no son or daughter for Jacob, only her maid, Bilhah.  Finally, however, "God remembered Rachel and opened her womb, and she produced Joseph and prayed for yet another one, Jacob's eleventh son.
This one came also, but Rachel died immediately after his birth, and this, the last of Jacob's twelve sons, he named Benjamin.

Jacob finally parted from Laban after more than twenty years and some mutual deceptions, the result of which was that Jacob, in possession of most of what might rightly have been Laban's flocks and herds, returned toward Canaan.  We have more interesting events (and deceptions), including the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau, until Jacob finally returned to Canaan, arriving at Bethel, where the Lord appeared to Jacob and repeated the Promise once more to a descendant of Abraham:

[10] "Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name." So his name was called Israel.
[11] And God said to him, "I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you.
[12] The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you.

He failed to include all the families of the earth this time, but this does not mean that this portion of the promise has gone by the way.  Instead, he added something completely new, and very important:

. . . kings shall spring from you.

This is the first time we have heard of royalty -- of kings and kingdoms -- but it will not be the last.  It is the first glimmer of a greater and more magnificent Promise -- the kingdom of God.  Again, Jacob set up a pillar and called the name of the place Bethel.  Benjamin was born and Rachel died soon after.  Later Isaac died, at the ripe old age of a hundred and eighty years, and the reconciled sons, Jacob and Esau, buried him (Gen. 35:29).

The many sons of Jacob survived and matured, but most were not honorable men.  The remainder of Genesis is the story of how they (except Benjamin and, of course, Joseph) sold their young brother Joseph to a band Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt and sold him into slavery there.  Everyone who attended Sunday School as a child is aware of how Joseph prospered and became, by the age of thirty, Prime Minister of Egypt, subject only to Pharoah.  Those later chapters of Genesis that tell of Joseph's experiences in Egypt, of the years of famine he had foretold and of his ultimate reconciliation with his brothers constitute perhaps the most touching story in the entire Old Testament.   Who can read of the feast at which Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, of his weeping with joy and thankfulness for the reconciliation with his kindred from Canaan, and not weep with him?  If this story were mere fiction published for the first time today in the bookstalls of the world, it would be an immediate best seller.  And while there is no evidence that
at this point Joseph knew of the Promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he clearly understood that the hand of God was at work.  We also see, for the first time, the proof of an honorable and honest man in the words of Joseph to his fearful brothers when he first made himself known to them:

[4] So Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, I pray you." And they came near. And he said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.

[5] And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
[6] For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.
[7] And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.
[8] So it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

next sent his brothers back to Canaan to bring their Father Jacob (Israel) and all his household, which numbered sixty-six souls not including his daughters in law, back to Egypt to live under the protection of Joseph and Pharaoh.  The aged patriarch could hardly believe their story, that his long lost favorite son for whom he had grieved as dead was not only alive, but was ruler of all Egypt and desirous that all the family come to him.  Jacob gathered all that he had and they began the journey and came to Beersheba.  There he offered sacrifices to God, who then spoke to him in "visions of the night" and said,

[3] "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation.
[4] I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes.

Joseph went to meet them in Goshen, and there followed another very touching scene when Joseph first saw his father.  He fell on his neck, and "wept on his neck a good while."  They settled in Goshen, in Egypt, where they multiplied greatly in numbers and possessions.  Jacob lived there for seventeen years until he died, after extracting a promise from Joseph that he would take him back to Canaan for burial.

When Jacob became terminally ill Joseph came to him.  The dying man summoned his strength and sat up and said:

[3] "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me,
[4] and said to me, `Behold, I will make you fruitful, and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.'

Then he called all his sons that he might give each of them a final blessing.  Each blessing is enlightening but only one brings the Promise to the fore.  This is the blessing of Judah, when he said:

[10] The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Our dictionary defines a scepter thus:

. . . a staff or baton borne by a sovereign as an emblem of authority.

We have already learned (Gen. 35:11), that Jacob (Israel) is to be the father of kings.  Now, here it is again, the sure Promise of God from the lips of a dying man.  It is Judah whose sons are to rule, and the royal authority (scepter) shall not depart from Judah

until he comes to whom it belongs.

It is at this very point that the scriptures begin to give testimony of Jesus, for this enigmatic, mysterious king to be is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God.  Mark this "until he comes" expression carefully, for you will see it again.  At this point we will only mention that the genealogy of Jesus as delineated by both Matthew and Luke show him to spring from the house of Judah.

So Jacob died and Joseph took him back to Canaan and buried him in the cave that Abraham had bought for a burial place and where was buried Abraham and Sarah, his wife, Isaac and Rebecca his wife, and where Jacob had buried Leah.  Joseph and the brothers returned to Egypt, where Joseph ruled until he died at the age of a hundred and ten years.  The day came when he gathered the brothers and said to them,

[24] And Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die; but God will visit you, and bring you up out of this land to the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

There it is again, not from God directly, but given as a reminder from Joseph to his brothers.  It will often be this way as we continue to trace the Promise through the scriptures.  It is the glue that unifies all.

Sit now
with me please, my reader, and ponder the men we have seen in this brief recapitulation of the Promise.  They are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel) and his twelve sons.  Looking at them with a critical eye we see them not as saints of God; all of them were deceptive and guileful, save one -- Joseph.  Joseph alone was as nearly perfect as they come, a truly good man whose word was true and who always maintained the integrity of his person.  Joseph, alone among them, was the true and faithful husband of one wife, Asenath, who bore his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Jacob claimed Ephraim and Manasseh for his own, and through them Joseph inherited a double portion in Israel.  The name of one stands in the place of Joseph, the other in the place of Levi, who became the Priest, so that there were but twelve to share the heritage of the Promised Land, as there had been twelve sons of Israel, so these became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes.  However, that would have to wait while God worked in his mysterious ways.  It would be some four hundred years before their descendants would follow Moses out of Canaan to the Promised Land, there to begin claiming the Promise of God.

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